It’s Okay to be a “Classic Stern Girl”

By Kaila Glenner

My whole life I was raised with the understanding that I would go to college and pursue a career. This is common for most people of my generation because while I’m not a first-generation American whose parents push them to go to college, the society around me has bred this expectation. Besides, I’m a “school person”; I appreciate sitting in class and being intellectually stimulated. This is why my desire to be a doctor and going through all of the years of schooling hadn’t scared me away. I entered Stern ready to put in the effort, fully motivated, and perhaps a little naive about the journey ahead. It surprised me, then, when I would tell people that I’m pre-med and I was met with a chuckle and discouraging words. I often heard, “everybody is pre-med when they come to YU. Just you wait and see those numbers drop.” Not only did I not want to believe the naysayers, but I was also offended that people were so quick to put me off. From then on, I was determined to prove to everybody that I’d remain pre-med and become successful despite their words. I wasn’t going to become the “classic Stern girl” they scoffed at.

As often happens with freshmen college students, my first semester was extremely stressful, and I cried almost every day. I remember just wanting to give up and “drop” pre-med. However, after surviving the first semester, I felt re-empowered to push through and reach for the stars. Ironically, while school was going great during my second semester, and my workload stabilized, I had an epiphany: there might be other healthcare professions that I found myself wanting to consider- avenues outside of medical school. I started to explore some fields and reach out to multiple pre-health advisors on campus. The process so far has been eye-opening and exciting; learning about the variety of health careers where I could combine my love for science and passion to care for others has been fascinating. There was one problem: what would I tell the people who had predicted I would switch out of pre-med?

I like to think of myself as a confident person, but my fear of disappointing my parents and having others in YU judge me — as well as probably making some of my more competitive peers in school feel triumphant about me dropping pre-med — scare me. It makes me hesitant to tell people that I might drop pre-med. Ultimately, it’s my life and I should do what makes me happy. I would tell that to anybody who came to me for advice. However, the fear of becoming a “classic Stern girl” still scares me.

Why do we put others down for taking charge of their lives? Why has the YU-community made it an assumption that dropping pre-med is a sign of weakness? I’m not a weak person, and while there might be students who choose not to go to medical school because it’s too hard, there are plenty of others who make this choice simply because they don’t want to. In fact, most people change their career paths throughout college. Honestly, I’m patting myself on the back for taking the time time to seriously think about what I want. I find, with myself and others, that we’re often scared to face what we really want in life.

I haven’t made any final decisions about my career, but I’m sick and tired of feeling bad about myself because of what other people think. It’s time to end the stigma of being a “classic Stern girl” and legitimize moving around in terms of majors and career paths. College is the time for academic growth and soul-searching so let me do that in peace! Whatever I do choose to do with my life, after college, is nobody’s business because at the end of the day it’s my life. I need to empower myself with this truth and overcome my fear of being a stereotype. If being responsible and honest with myself about my career path, skill sets, and desires makes me a “classic Stern girl,” then maybe it’s not so bad to be one.

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